One year after they were featured on HBO’s “Hard Knocks,” the Cincinnati Bengals have scripted their own reality show.
T.O. and Ocho. Two self-conscious stars, one NFL team.
How will they fit? How will it work? Which wide receiver will provide most of the drama? And, more importantly, will any of it help the Bengals return to the playoffs?
The Bengals reached a one-year contract agreement with Terrell Owens on Tuesday, a team source told NFL Network insider Michael Lombardi, and the veteran receiver is expected to report to training camp in a day or two.
NFL Network insider Jason La Canfora confirmed that Owens will be paid $2 million in base salary and could earn an additional $2 million in incentives. Owens’ agent, Drew Rosenhaus, called the incentives “very reachable” and indicated that they are consistent with Owens’ production in Buffalo, where he made $6.5 million last season.
Rosenhaus pointed out on NFL Network’s “NFL Total Access” that the receiver hasn’t signed anything yet, although he admitted it “looks like a formality at this point.” Rosenhaus expects the deal to be finalized Wednesday night or Thursday morning.
On his Twitter account, all Owens would say was, “Hoping 2 b a Bengal w/in the 24hrs!!” He later said: “Ocho Uno is coming 2 town!! Hey Robin, Batman will b there soon!”
Players are required to report for the start of Bengals training camp Wednesday in Georgetown, Ky. According to The Cincinnati Enquirer, Owens isn’t expected to attend the morning practice Thursday, but he likely will show up for the night session.
Rosenhaus said the Bengals were Owens’ first choice, giving him a chance to team with close friend Chad Ochocinco, who already has dubbed the pair Batman and Robin. The Bengals made an offer Monday, and Owens accepted it one day later, after the St. Louis Rams dropped out of the running.
“The Bengals have always been the front-runner,” Rosenhaus told The Associated Press. “Even though I talked to some other teams during this process, the Bengals have always been the team that showed the most interest. Terrell has always been excited about them.”
The Bengals gave Owens a tryout in March, but they decided to sign Antonio Bryant to a four-year, $28 million contract instead. Although he said on NFL Network that he doesn’t have “direct knowledge” of the situation, Rosenhaus believes Bryant’s health status played a role in the Bengals chasing Owens.
Bryant has been slowed by knee surgery, and NFL.com’s Steve Wyche, citing a source with knowledge of the situation, reported Tuesday that some within the Bengals’ organization already feel a semblance of buyer’s remorse.
Coach Marvin Lewis denied last week that the Bengals needed Owens, telling the team’s official Web site, “I don’t want to speak (about Terrell). We’ve been down that road. I don’t have a concern that we need to add anybody (at receiver).” But Lewis changed his tune this week.
“I think really we’re adding a player who has been extremely productive throughout his career and really compliments the guys that we have offensively already,” Lewis said Tuesday on NFL Network. “But really, when Terrell didn’t sign, obviously they still had the interest and the attraction. I’m glad it was able to work out. It makes for the greater good of the football team.”
Already, it’s like something out of a reality show.
Ochocinco gushed about the matchup on his Twitter feed, welcoming Owens to Cincinnati and joking that “all of our games have been moved to pay-per-view, you got to pay to see this.”
Both of the look-at-me receivers are accustomed to cable.
By adding Owens, the Bengals will lead the NFL in reality TV stars. Ochocinco competed on “Dancing With the Stars” during the offseason and has a dating show called “Ochocinco: The Ultimate Catch” currently running on VH1. After Ochocinco’s show comes “The T.O. Show.”
Ochocinco’s last show involved eliminating two contestants. Owens’ last program had him walking down a runway as part of a fashion show in metrosexual attire — bare chest under an open jacket with a huge necklace and a wig.
In a couple of days, it will be the dancer-and-dater on one side of the field, the metrosexual model on the other.
In the middle will be quarterback Carson Palmer, who helped bring Owens to Cincinnati. Palmer worked out with Owens in California and called Lewis, saying the Bengals ought to try to sign the receiver.
“He and Chad are going to do some great things with Carson,” Rosenhaus told The AP. “Carson Palmer had a lot to do with this deal coming together.”
Bengals president Mike Brown went along with it, even though he knew Owens also brings a lot of baggage. The outspoken receiver has a history of undercutting his quarterbacks, though he was on good behavior last season in Buffalo.
Brown doesn’t mind. He has a history of providing extra chances to players who have caused trouble, allowing them to extend their careers in Bengals stripes. In the last two years, the Bengals also have signed wide receivers Chris Henry and Matt Jones and running backs Cedric Benson and Larry Johnson, all of whom were let go by Cincinnati or other teams because of off-the-field issues.
“Yes, people can make mistakes,” Brown said at the Bengals’ preseason luncheon Monday. “It doesn’t mean that they go on the rest of their lives making mistakes. They can get their ship pointed in the right direction. This is a 36-year-old man. He’s been through a lot. He’s proven as a player and as a person.”
The question is how much Owens has left.
Owens caught 55 passes for 829 yards and five touchdowns with the Bills last season, his least-productive full season since early in his career with the San Francisco 49ers. The Bengals are trying to upgrade a passing game that was one of the NFL’s worst last season, ranking 26th.
The Bengals won the AFC North by relying on defense and their running game. They released wide receiver Laveranues Coles after his only season in Cincinnati and went looking for a replacement. They found him in Bryant, then also turned to Owens.
The Bengals could move Bryant to an inside slot position, which they have struggled to fill since T.J. Houshmandzadeh left for the Seattle Seahawks as a free agent. The Bengals also could alternate the two receivers at an outside spot opposite Ochocinco, who was regularly double-teamed by defenders last season.
“I think the personalities of a professional football team, they have a way of coming together when they get united doing one thing — and that’s winning football games,” Lewis said. “That’s the challenge. That’s what I’ve spoken to all of them about. I can’t tell you on which day who is going to get a chance to do what, but that your time is coming. Be ready. Be prepared. Come on every day and strap up and let’s go to work. Your day will come.
“At the end of this, if we do it right enough, we’ll all feel pretty good about things.”
Rosenhaus also has talked to the Bengals about a contract extension for Ochocinco, who is on the final year of a deal that includes a team option for 2011.
“We’ve been in discussion potentially about doing an extension,” Rosenhaus told The AP. “So we’ll keep that going. It’s been very cordial, very positive.”